Long Live Millie Mims!

March 1, 2015

By Suzy Williams

In honor of International Women’s Day and the corresponding Beachhead March issue, I would like to shed some fresh Venice daylight on a remarkable and real woman, Millie Mims, the nourishing Goddess of the Boardwalk. Many of you know that she serves up a delicious organic vegetarian soup,  (she gathers the yummy comestibles from local farmers’ market surpluses), hot rice and a big salad every day, rain or shine, to the hungry people of Venice, just about a hundred a day  (every day except Thursday). Whole Foods donates really great bread.
She attracts volunteers to help her serve, but she does much of the cooking and schlepping herself. That kind of tangible daily devotion to sheer human kindness is something that should (and often does!) inspire us all. She is interested not only in feeding people good food, but also in nurturing positive energy and connectedness. She inspires us to be kind – first and foremost in life.
Last month I attended a benefit for Millie and her organization, New Life Society. It was hosted by the handsome Robert Walsh, treasurer for the aforementioned NLS, at Big Red Sun, a beautiful hippie store on Rose that sells classy succulent planters and such. It was very heartening to see lots of young, rather well-off folk forking over $125.00 each to party down with Millie Mims.
So if you happen to be down on your luck and could use some TLC, or if you’re flush and are inclined to share your good fortune, drop on by Navy and Ocean Front Walk. Come by around 4 P.M. and partake in the largesse of Life, as exhibited by Herself, you know who.

Millie


Rock On, Lisa Green!

March 1, 2015

By Greta Cobar

Lisa Green is one of the Goddesses who makes Venice the colorful, intricate, exciting and interesting place that it is. She has been displaying her art on Ocean Front Walk, by Dudley, for about five years while at the same time being an ever-present advocate for love, justice and equality at our community meetings. To celebrate the 104th anniversary of the March 8 International Women’s Day, the Beachhead chose to spotlight her, out of the thousands of awesome Venice women.

Beachhead: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Lisa Green: International Women’s Day is a call to unite, to honor, to embrace, and act as strong willful and passionate women. Our voices have enormous power and now more than ever we as women, all connected on Earth, must assist in shifting the balance of power towards equality.

BH: What brought you here?
LG: About ten years ago, I went through one and a half years of cathartic life-changing events that ultimately brought me here all the way from Florida. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my mother died during my recovery, my long-term relationship came to an end, and I resigned from my job as a corporate financial analyst. I had to re-engineer myself and gave away almost everything I had, except for my dog Tiki. The two of us made the journey to Venice about eight years ago.

BH: Why did you choose Venice?
LG: I went through a spiritual awakening and I was unequivocally drawn to Venice as the place that I had to go to if I wanted to continue growing. It is the place I chose to find myself in the new chapter of my life. I knew that Venice was next in my journey.

BH: And where did that journey take you?
LG: When I came here I started to re-define myself as a more politically active artist. I joined socialist groups and participated in peace marches, did homeless outreach on skid row, became an active Green Party member. At first I was still holding a corporate job, as a financial analyst, in El Segundo. I was really good at what I was doing. But my integrity did not allow me to work for a screwed-up boss, and most of them are.

BH: How did you leap from that to being an artist on Ocean Front Walk?
LG: I was an artist my whole life – my father encouraged it. I used to draw, did glass mosaic and worked with clay. I gave it all away. Back in Florida, when attending craft festivals, I wanted to be on the other side, as an artist. Here in Venice, I started my own company, Green Earth Creations. I was designing cotton t-shirts and printing them myself, and was also making soy candles. At that time these were acceptable sale items on Ocean Front Walk, and I joined the lottery that was in effect at that time. When I did get a spot, I spent weekends on Ocean Front Walk displaying my creations, but I was still holding on to my corporate job in El Segundo.

BH: Where were you living at that time?
LG: I was at the hostel on Lincoln, the motel in Ocean Park, and an apartment in Mar Vista. I stopped participating in the lottery for spaces about a year after I started because I could see the conflict, division, corruption and distraction that it was creating. And it pissed off my boss, but I resigned from my corporate job in El Segundo around that time as well. I already knew Diane and Ibrahim Butler and we talked, and decided that we would join forces and camp out by Dudley, in front of the Bistro. With their encouragement and after seeing how they lived, I decided that I could do the same thing they were doing: be vehicle-housed. It was something that I chose for a number of reasons. Inherently it is my right to live my life in an alternative way that gives me freedom from a lot of the socio-economic trappings that would tie up a lot of my time and take me away from my art and the message I want to share with everyone. I set out to be a voice for others and live in a way that most of society doesn’t understand.

BH: And that’s when you started displaying your art next to Ibrahim?
LG: Yes, my paintings, sculptures. I knew that my artwork and my way of living would have a profound impact and people would come after me and try to stop what I was doing. But living that way kept me protected from certain individuals who might challenge me and the message that I was delivering. They couldn’t take away from me the things they usually go after: your house, your financial reputation, your family. Because of the way I live I had freed myself as much as possible from the constrictions and the idea of what is supposed to matter in America.

BH: Do you feel that you found what you set out searching for when you came to Venice?
LG: I found many of me – quite a few. Yes, without a doubt because I am living my life more authentically, living my truth, and I am using my natural abilities to be creative. The corporate world gave me intimate knowledge of the financial structures in different organizations, and that helped me when speaking out against the mis-use of power. I did a lot of soul-searching and healing in this process. It’s an ongoing process.

BH: Did you find that Venice was the right place for you to come to?
LG: Venice gave me a space to reveal my true self to the world. It is a mystical, intense place, and I am an intense person. It is synchronicity. Venice is love – the strongest power in the Universe. Ocean Front Walk is the front line – or the end of the line.

BH: How has Venice changed in the last eight years that you’ve been here?
LG: I’ve seen a lot of changes in Venice, such as gentrification, especially over the last three years. I’ve seen many people around Venice coming together to stand against injustice – the amount of people now working together is new. Before people were holding grudges against each other and not connecting. Like this person was not talking to this person because of something that happened ten years ago. These were stalemates and digressions. Venice is coming together in crisis, it is phenomenal like that. Now there is more unity and common ground, people are coming together. People are taking care of each other more. People are coming together to have a dialogue not only with each other, but with the planet. Grassroots movements have sprouted in the last few years, and people are making a difference socially, politically and environmentally in a very positive, non-violent way.

BH: Do you hold hope for our struggles?
LG: Most people would prefer to be humane rather than hurtful and hateful, but there are wounds that we have to heal from, individually and collectively, and in order to do the healing each person has to be willing to face their fears and look inside themselves and resist the urge to only see the problems outside of themselves. Venice can be a place of harmony on Earth. Work on yourself, not on attacking outside of yourself – if you hate anything outside of you it comes from within.

BH: As an artist, do you feel that art plays a part in our individual and collective struggles?
LG: Everyone has the ability to be an artist. Art comes in many facets. It is in the middle of EARTH. The more you tap into your own creativity, the more you understand yourself and the world around you, the more you can heal yourself and live more peacefully. We’re all creating our own reality. Take back the story – control the story! I win because I’m telling the story.

Lisa Green


Venice Beach: The People’s Beach

March 1, 2015

By Peggy Lee Kennedy

Why did the City of Los Angeles close the people’s beach from midnight to five in the morning? I have heard it all: the gangs, the homeless, drugs, prostitution, et cetera, et cetera. The truth is that Ordinance 164209, amending LAMC 63.44 in 1988, does not say why the City of Los Angeles closed access to the beach in Venice from midnight to five in the morning. And, according to California State law, a municipality or a personal land owner cannot deny access to our coastal waters. Sure, there are exceptions like a giant tidal wave, a terrible tsunami, or maybe a nuclear disaster.
In case you haven’t been paying attention or you are new to Venice, there is a process to restricting access to the beaches in the State of California dictated by the California Coastal Act. You first must obtain a Coastal Development Permit (CDP), and recent court findings have upheld this. Even if there is a nuisance, the applicant first must prove a valid reason to restrict access to the coastal waters and go through the CDP process. This involves the public, by the way. Creating a beach curfew that has a maximum restriction to coastal access is simply a violation of the Coastal Act, which requires maximum access.
The City never ever obtained approval to close the beach in any way. Over and again the City has said that it does not need a CDP. I guess some might want you to believe that there is a nuisance so great that the City of Los Angeles can-over ride State law. Wrong. There is a provision in the Coastal Act regarding nuisances, but you can’t use it to negate the CDP requirement. I do think those remaining spent fuel rods at San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant are very concerning. And Diablo Canyon is scary. But let’s get real: this is about homeless people being on the beach next to properties with skyrocketing values into the millions of dollars.
I am so sick and tired of the City feeding us Orwellian crap about how they are taking steps to end homelessness when the budget is simply telling another, more honest story.  The City’s 2014-2015 budget dedicates 43.4 percent of the general fund to the Police Department. That is approximately 1.3 billion dollars. B I L L I O N. Guess how much went to the Housing Department? That would be ZERO.
There are a few things I learned from my life as an accountant. One is that if it’s not in the budget, don’t expect to spend money on it. After reviewing the numbers and following the money (OK it’s a simple pie chart found online), the truth is the City of Los Angeles really does believe we can police our way out of homelessness.
On the same shameless beat, the city goes on allowing the big box million dollar “home” developments in the Venice Coastal Zone on top of a demolished community character and lost forever affordable housing. There is a pretty profit for the few and foreseeable increased property taxes for the City. This is what the city has been protecting now for years.
Los Angeles is one of the least affordable places to live in the country and the recent “Poverty and Inequality Report 2014” by Stanford University reveals that the official poverty rate has increased dramatically. Fear mongering is in lock step with this. Be afraid; be very afraid when you hear: “We need more police.” If you or your friends are saying this, please check for zombie bites on your bodies. Los Angeles City has the third largest police force in the country and it is increasingly becoming more militarized, dwarfed only by a more militarized NYPD. But I do digress. And the percentage of New York City’s budget allocated to its police department is substantially less than the City of Los Angeles.
There are some monies from the County that the city of L.A. uses for homeless issues. I understand that Venice’s allocation is being spent on the over-the-top hazmat cleanings on the Ocean Front Walk (and elsewhere) so you are safe from even a chair on the OFW. And the City has been focusing on confiscating homeless belongings, including hard to carry around tarps and tents, because they may be violating the disability act by blocking a sidewalk. We wouldn’t want the disabled homeless people doing that, especially since there is an overwhelming amount of this country’s disabled population living homeless. Venice is no exception.
One L.A. City expenditure executed on homeless people, which goes completely unreported, is the unimaginable amount of tickets being issued for minor infractions. They are handed out like candy by the LAPD – possibly to reflect some kind of increase in “nuisance” crime on our beach.
Please, stop and meditate on what the real solutions to homelessness are.  It is not excessive ticketing by a police department being allocated over 43 percent of the City’s budget and it certainly is not closing public access to the entire Los Angeles City coast line.
Venice is the people’s beach. Let’s take it back.Peggy Kennedy

Peggy Kennedy CityBudgetByDept


THE BEAT GOES ON

February 1, 2015

By Marty Liboff

YOU ARE ALL UNDER ARREST!! John Haag started our beloved Beachhead newspaper in 1968. He had run the legendary Venice West Cafe at 7 Dudley Ave. in Venice from 1962 to 1966 with his wonderful wife Anna. Believe it or not, you could be arrested back then just for reading a poem with a 4 letter word or displaying a painting with a naked woman! No matter that our museums are full of naked Roman statues and Ruben’s paintings of large nude women – back then the moral police could harass and arrest you for this!
In the mid 1950s the North Beach in San Francisco and Greenwich Village in New York had like a crazy new movement called the Beats. Man, like people would like write poetry and sometimes beat like cool bongo drums. Jazz music, beards, drugs, sandals, and sex were all part of the beatnick counter-culture. They believed that each of us has his/her inner artist that can come out in painting, poetry, dance, music, ceramics, photography, writing and sculpture. They invented their own hip lingo. Dig it man, it’s far out! Many had come from affluent families and had good educations but had rebelled against the excess consumerism that Americans were sold into after WWII and the Korean wars. They thought of themselves as cool hip cats and everyone else wearing suits and slaving for the almighty dollar were squares.
The Venice West Cafe Expresso was started in 1957 by the bearded and man like crazy Beat poet Stuart Perkoff. Another older writer and poet, Lawrence Lipton had moved to Venice and had successful poetry readings at his house and other homes around Venice. Alan Ginsberg, Anais Nin and other famous poets of the day had come there. Lawrence had become the shaman of the new Venice West Beats and a mentor to the younger Stuart. Lawrence thought maybe he could start a Beat movement in our like cool town by the sea. Venice was a nice, but run down mostly Jewish neighborhood. The rents were cheap and a few artists already lived in the many turn of the century cottages and cheap hotels, some that were built by our town’s founder Abbot Kinney. Stuart Perkoff saw how successful Lawrence Lipton’s Beat poetry sessions were and thought a coffee shop with poetry and maybe some jazz and paintings by new Beat artists would be fun. He borrowed some “bread” otherwise known as a few bucks from his parents and rented the little store at 7 Dudley Ave. and turned it into a coffee shop. Little did he know such a seemingly innocent venture would cause a moral fire storm!
Stuart proclaimed, “Men & women of Venice, lovers, children, holy citizens of the heavenly city, all around you there is the sweet air of love!” The cafe opened and became a family hangout for the artists of Venice and Perkoff”s kids and pals. It had bare brick walls that were decorated with new art and poetic sayings. A mixed lot of old tables and chairs filled the room. There was an old fridge and stove behind a counter and you felt you were sitting in Stuart’s living room or his pad. There was a chess set and usually a conga drum. Splattered on one wall was the saying, “Art is love is God”. There were only a couple dozen or so regular Beats around Venice and how could they drink enough coffee and sandwiches to keep it going? Many of the Venice regulars like had no bread or were broke anyway. Right away the city came down on these beatniks with any health violation they could think of. Poor Stuart was disillusioned by a lack of paying customers and the city’s harassment and sold the business in 1959 for $200 to John Kenevan.
Lawrence Lipton and others of the hip Beat movement had gone on radio and TV. Lawrence declared that, “Venice West is to Los Angeles what the Left Bank once was to Paris!” Books were being written about the Beats like Lipton’s very popular book, “The Holy Barbarians”. His book and talks sometimes mentioned the Venice West Cafe. Soon the cafe was booming with tourists and would-be beatniks. Tourists came with cameras. Tourists walked the Ocean Front Walk searching for someone that might look like “Maynard G. Krebs”, the funny beatnik on the “Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” TV show, so they could take their picture. TV and radio reporters came to show these wild “barbarians”. Beatniks were suddenly so popular that Stuart Perkoff even got on the Groucho Marx TV show, “You Bet Your Life”!
Down near Windward Ave. Eric “Big Daddy” Nord rented an old Abbot Kinney building on the Ocean Front and called it the Gas House. “But it’s alright now, in fact it’s a gas!” It was a haven for the beatniks and their art and music. “Big Daddy” was a bearded giant daddy-o at 6 foot 8 inches and up to 400 pounds! He left the San Francisco beatnik scene after failing with a Beat joint there and tried his luck in Venice. Suddenly there were two cool Beat hangouts in Venice.
Almost immediately some local realtors and developers tried to rally the square community to close them down and throw these worthless bums out. They got our local bureaucrats and the LAPD to join in the harassment. They complained about weird people, drugs and noisy music. They screamed that beatniks were lowering property values on the beach. Sound familiar today? They had undercover agents hang out at the cafe and Gas House and they reported nudity and drinking. Some ranted about immorality like Black men kissing White women! The police declared that you needed an entertainment license to read a poem and closed them down. The health department came up with any excuse to shut them down. Lawyers for the Beats kept the Gas House open for a while but they couldn’t have poetry shows or allow the beatniks to live there anymore. In 1963 the city forced the closure and demolition of the Gas House and the beautiful old Saint Marks Hotel next door. The city began condemning many of the old buildings around Windward Ave. They figured if they demolish the cheap housing then these “undesirables” will have to go away. “Big Daddy” returned to San Francisco.
In around 1960 a young, good looking John Haag and his beautiful wife Anna came to Venice. He wanted to be a Venice West poet. John was born in 1930 in N.Y. He was a well educated Harvard man. Anna was born in 1937 in Italy. In the early 1960s they rented a small space next door to the cafe and called it the Venice Music and Arts Center. They figured this tiny spot would have music, art and poetry. They became activists in several civil rights groups. In 1962 they took over the Venice West Cafe next door from John Kenevan. Kenevan, like Perkoff, had been constantly picked on by the police, the health department, city hall and some prudish neighbors. Kenevan was happy to turn the cafe over to John and Anna Haag.
In 1964 John Haag sounded a cowbell in the cafe and a poet came up and read a poem. Immediately four plain-clothed vice officers planted in the audience and at least four more regular cops arrested John for entertainment without a police permit. Soon after our Venice city councilman tried to outlaw playing drums along the public beach. Mayor Yorty talked about bulldozing all of Venice and starting over!
John and Anna didn’t go down without a fight. They got lawyers and kept having poetry. The city council went ahead and outlawed drums on the beach at that time and continued to harass John and other beatniks. My mother ran a bakery in the Cadillac Hotel a few feet away and I hung out by the cafe often. I remember well one incident where John was arrested and his wife Anna began screeching like a mad lioness at the cops! She and John were both awesome people. We thought of them as the King and Queen of Venice! John began orchestrating demonstrations at city hall. He got radio and TV to cover some of the proceedings.
I used to go and hang out sometimes at the cafe. John and Anna were good friends with my mom, Ruthie in the bakery. I was 14 ½ when they took over the cafe. After they opened I liked to go and read the magazines and books. They put some free newspapers by the door and there were reading copies of books and magazines by the window. There were new books and magazines by the counter. I loved to look through them for cartoons but John would get mad at me for soiling his new books. “Go read the free books!” he would tell me. I would always tell him I had already looked at all the free stuff. He knew I wasn’t going to buy anything! Maybe once I bought a magazine? A cheap one…
Anna ran the cafe. She took food orders, made coffee and sandwiches, served the food and ran the cash register. When it was busy she had another worker help. John would shmooz with the Beats and customers. Sometimes he would get up and read his newest poem. They would often have jazz playing on their stereo or radio in the back while you sat on a junky chair or old couch writing your newest poem. The music of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie “Bird” and Mingus were playing in the background while people with berets and goatees sat and sipped coffee. John and Anna and many of the Beats smoked cigarettes in those days and smoke wafted about the room. Most smoked the sacred herb but they usually did that outside in a pagoda or on the sand for fear of the cops. Back then pot was a serious offense. Usually they were opened from dusk to morning. When the sun began to fall the Beat werewolves with bushy beards would begin to like howl their poems to the moon. Usually you would go up to Anna or John and tell them you had a poem and they would ring a bell and you would “blow” your thing. I really loved Anna like a second mom. John and Anna knew me as “Ruthie’s son”. I’d love to go back there now…
Some summer weekend nights when I went to the cafe the place was packed. There were wild eyed bearded men and dancing women even outside. There was the smell of funny cigarettes in the air. Sometimes it was so crowded you couldn’t get in. I remember a couple nights I just stood by the door to try and listen to the poets or a folk singer. I heard that a young unknown poet by the name of Jim Morrison used to come there and listen to poetry. Many times there was someone playing a drum with the poetry. Tamboo the conga drummer had used to be a regular.
In 1966 the owner of the property who hated commies tried to evict John and Anna. Once again they tried to rally support for their cafe. John and Anna had been battling in the courts and from jail and at city hall since they opened the first day! After a dirty battle in court by the owner, the judge gave the Venice West Cafe a temporary stay. However, John and Anna had enough. John had originally come to Venice to be a poet, not to be involved in courts, demonstrations and jail. Sadly, soon after the court battle they gave it up. Business had slumped also. Several bigger and prettier clubs had opened around L.A. The times were also a changing. The beatnik hipsters were transforming into hippies. Jazz and folk music was eclipsed by rock music. Reading poetry wasn’t as cool anymore as listening to rock ‘n’ roll. Jim Morrison began putting his poems to rock music instead of just bongo drums. His music became his poetry.
The civil rights movement in the early 1960s had gotten many people organized politically to fight racism in our country. The war in Vietnam had begun to stir anti-war sentiment. John Haag had written poems even in the late 1950s that were against war. The war began to have more and more killings on both sides, and John and Anna began to put more of their energy into the growing anti-war movement. Their experiences with city hall and the cops while running the cafe made them even more politically aware. He traveled up north to Washington State and a local group called the Peace and Freedom Party was supporting local anti-war candidates from both the Democrats and Republicans. He dreamed of a real Peace and Freedom Party that would have its own candidates. He returned to Venice and began to organize a new political party with his local pals. He liked the name Peace and Freedom Party and it won out over several other names. So the real Peace and Freedom Party was born in Venice in 1967. They had a terrible time getting the party on the ballot because both Democrats and Republicans didn’t want another political party to take away their votes. John and his new group needed 68,000 people to register in the new party. This meant you had to change your party affiliation from Democrat or Republican to Peace and Freedom. They had to battle all sorts of obstacles. With plenty of hard work they got 105,000 people to register to the new Peace and Freedom Party. He had stopped me walking on the boardwalk many a time to bug me to help him get signatures or to go to some rally or demonstration. I went once or twice but I usually tried to think up some excuse! I wasn’t very political. I spent all my spare time playing basketball. I told John on their first try with their own candidates that he should run for President. He told me that nobody outside Venice knows him and they needed someone with name recognition. He said maybe he might run at some later time and he did run for President later on. The Peace and Freedom Party ran Eldridge Cleaver who was well known at the time. During the war years the new party got quite a few votes. More recently, in 2012 they ran the comedienne Roseanne Barr for President.
John thought they needed a voice for the new party and their anti-war ideals. They thought of having a radio or TV show, but John figured they could start with a local newspaper. In 1968 the Free Venice Beachhead began. “This paper is a poem” was his idea to have poetry, art and political and local news that is ignored or misreported in the other newspapers. When asked what “Beachhead” meant John said, “It’s a military term describing the initial phase of an invasion. But of course I had in mind that we were all beach heads!” He didn’t want to run the paper himself and thought a collective of people who care could run it. He worked on the first couple of issues, but he was spending more and more time on the Peace and Freedom Party. John reminisced about the Beachhead, “ Of course it was all volunteer. Nobody got paid or anything. The personnel in the collective changed from time to time, and sometimes fairly rapidly, but there were always people to come in and put the paper out. I think it was some kind of miracle!” He tried to let the collective run things on the Beachhead. I wanted to be a cartoonist and had done some cartoons in college newspapers. The Beachhead printed a few of my cartoons in 1978 and ‘79. At one point some new collective members began editing my cartoons and I went to whine to John. He told me that the collective decides on the content and he didn’t want to interfere, although he enjoyed my cartoons. I quit, but later I still occasionally submitted a cartoon. Here I am again writing for the Beachhead! I feel I owe John and Anna much for their contributions to Venice. John’s poems and the poets at the coffee house had inspired me and still inspire me now!
Everyone was devastated in Venice when our King and Queen, John and Anna broke up. This was a major tragedy because together they were such a powerful force. Anna once said, “I might love a man, but I love Venice more!” John and Anna continued to work on politics and civil rights until they passed away. John still wrote poems until the end. Anna died in 2003 and John in 2006. Today the Peace and Freedom Party continues the fight against wars. Despite many not believing our Beachhead would ever work, our paper still continues on while most newspapers of that era are long gone. Let us hope and pray our Beachhead will go on forever… Well all you groovy chicks and hip cats, I blew my like crazy thing! It’s time for me to cut out and split until the next cool time. Far out man, ya dig it?

A Short Beat Glossary:
“BLOW” To sound off either with music, poems or words.
“BREAD” Money.
“CAT” A sexy cool male beatnik.
“CHICK” The male beatnik’s Beat girlfriend or any cute gal.
“COOL” Anything you like a lot is cool; cool jazz, cool painting…
“CRAZY” Anything that is kind of wild or new
“CUT OUT” To take one’s leave. To leave.
“DIG” To understand.
“FAR OUT” It really sends you or impresses you. Also, way out.
“GAS” The best, or greatest of times.
“GROOVE OR GROOVY” With it. In the (record) groove. Playing with the beat. Something nice.
“HEAD” Someone smart and also someone who smoked pot.
“HIP” To know. Knowledgeable. In the new style.
“JOINT” A place like a cafe. Also a marijuana cigarette.
“LIKE” To make sense of. Comparative reality.
“MAN” Giving greater emphasis to. Also the police, “The Man”.
“PAD” Your apartment or home.
“SPLIT” To leave or go.
“SQUARE” A conformist to society and culture who can’t drop his suit and tie.
“SWING” Uninhibited. Able to swing with music.

Beachhead, Dec.2003 article by John Haag. ‘Venice West’, 1991 by John Maynard. ‘John Haag Speaks’,YouTube, 2002, posted by Jim Smith. ‘Bohemians’, 2000 by Elizabeth Wilson. ‘Holy Barbarians’,1959 by Lawrence Lipton. Beachhead interview of John Haig, 2002 by Suzy Williams. ‘Venice California Coney Island of the Pacific’, by Jeffrey Stanton. Various -Wikipedia, etc.

This Paper is a Poem
By Marty Liboff

This paper is a poem
We laugh and cry
In joy and sadness
We recite, read and sing
Poems of the world gone wrong
Poems of the world gone right
Beauty and hell
Good and bad times
The changes, the years
The tears, the fears
The misery of the masses
The pain and happiness of an individual
Mankind cursed by society
Money mad developers and corporations
Banks, police, judges
Picking on the poor and helpless
And also the blessings…
The blessings of our Mother Earth
The beauty of a seagull flying by
And the simple kindness of good souls
We laugh and lament
To the passings and new births and new beginnings
The Muses recite and sing to us
The 9 Sisters tell us everything
Mysteries revealed
In adversity we learn and gain strength
For hope for a better future
A poem of life
A song we sing
Sing, sing your song
Of liberty, freedom and love
This paper is a poem…

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Venice West Cafe

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Poetry Reading at Venice West Cafe 1960 - by Robert Huffstutter

 

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Historical Venice OFW Homes Destined to Be Axed

February 1, 2015

By Pegarty Long

Two of Venice’s oldest houses are about to make way for a new mixed-use project which will include a fine dining glass-enclosed restaurant and two apartments on the building’s second level.
The now boarded-up homes are located at 811-815 Ocean Front Walk (OFW). They were built circa 1905 and represent two of the few remaining original houses on Venice’s OFW. The owners of the property, Vera and Gary Sutter, have submitted an application to the city for a “new mixed-use project consisting of two residential units and a ground floor restaurant with full alcohol bar.” There will be subterranean parking with mechanical lifts and tandem parking with parking attendant.
The owners say that the project fully complies with the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan.
A community meeting, hosted by the architect, John Reed, was held on January 19 to present the plans and renderings for the project.
Long-time residents from the surrounding area attended. A large percentage of the attendees were from Park Avenue, the Venice street which will be most affected by the project.
The plan is for two residential apartments, a fine dining restaurant that will seat 100 and a bar in the back that will seat 16. Hours of operation will be Sunday to Thursday 8am to midnight and Friday and Saturday 9am to 1am. There will be 28 underground parking spaces for the patrons and the building’s residents. No spaces will be allotted for surrounding Venice residents. It will take about 14 to 16 months before construction can begin, given the many applications that must be submitted, and 14  more months of construction, according to Reed.
The chief concerns of the residents were backed up traffic, pollution from the traffic, and noise by the comings and goings of the patrons in the late restaurant hours.
Their small alley, Park Court and surrounding Speedway, a one-way alley, would be the only routes to the restaurant, and street parking in the area is scant.They did not think that 28 parking spaces could accommodate two apartments and a dining room of 100 seats plus 16 in the bar. Reed countered that there would be layered and elevator parking plus valet and that that would help. The residents believe that  would cause backed-up traffic on both Park and Speedway while the cars are being parked. Reed countered that they expect much walk-in business from the people on the Ocean Front Walk. Residents emphatically did not think so. They thought that people on the Ocean Front Walk generally are there for sun and fun and not for fine dining, nor would they be properly dressed for it. They also reminded Reed of the midnight curfew on Ocean Front Walk. Reed responded that the patrons would be asked to leave from the back area during the curfew hours.
Residents also raised the question that those patrons who want fine dining with open bay windows overlooking Ocean Front Walk might find the Ocean Front Walk scene offensive, sometimes even repulsive, and not conducive to fine dining. Reed said he lives in Venice and he knew what the scene was, and didn’t think that would be a problem because the bay windows of the restaurant could be opened or closed.
Residents brought up  the transients in the area and the many who sleep around Park Avenue at night. Reed answered that the owners of the property and he had been in contact with “Mike” (Councilman Mike Bonin) about this and that they were assured by Bonin that he was working on the the problem and it is being resolved.
On the issue of excessive noise, besides the comings and goings of traffic and people from 8am until 12 midnight or 1am each day of the week, Reed was made aware that on Ocean Front Walk musicians are drawn to playing in front of restaurants and other eating places and disturb residents by playing loudly and frequently, often with bongos. These musicians would attempt to get restaurant patrons’ attention and money. The residents were assured by Reed that the building will block any noise because of its sheer size.
Reacting negatively to these statements, the residents also voiced their concerns about the underground water problems that arise when digging deeply into the ground for the underground parking in this area of Venice. They advised the architect to seek consultation with the builders of Thornton Lofts, a large condominium with underground parking a few blocks away. That project was stalled for over a year and went over the estimated budget because of the water that surfaced while digging. Venice, which is located right by the ocean, was built on landfill. (As many seasoned Venetians know, when founder Abbot Kinney flipped that coin in the air and won the toss to choose which of two large areas of real estate to build on, he famously chose what seemed to be the least desirable for his dream of a Venice of America… a swamp.)
When Reed was asked why he did not design a building which would incorporate the existing historical buildings in his design he answered, “this is what the owners want”.
At the end of the meeting Reed thanked all for expressing their concerns.
The project will be presented to the Venice Neighborhood Council  land use and planning committee. Time and place can be confirmed at: http://www.grvnc.org.

Pegarty Long


The Politics of Painting Pagodas

February 1, 2015

By Krista Schwimmer
There are many features on Ocean Front Walk that define its essence. Among the most noteworthy are the pagodas or pergolas, as they were first called. Clustered together like mini palm trees, these free structures welcome all against the elements. As a result, a variety of people congregate in and around them: tourists, locals, and unhoused community members.
Like many parts of Venice, these pagodas have appeared in Hollywood films. Two films from Jeffrey Stanton’s research are “Falcon and the Snowman,” starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton; and “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” starring Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, and Richard Dreyfuss. In the latter movie, Nolte’s character is a bum. He and his homeless pals meet at the pagoda at Dudley Street and sing, “We are the bums! We are the homeless!” More recently, these same pagodas w

 

ere the stars in the monthly Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) meeting held Tuesday, January 20.
On that night, Melissa Diner, Chair of the Ocean Front Walk (OFW) Committee, presented a “Pagoda Beautification” motion. The motion recommended that VNC support the “formation of an ‘Adopt-A- Pagoda” project and adjacent benches project.” Approved local artists would take a pagoda, its mini wall, bench, and trashcan, and redo it. One of the eight pagodas on Sunset Avenue, however, would be a permanent installation dedicated to Alicia Gruppioni.
What followed next was a sometimes volatile, often confusing, and even comical discussion generated by series of motions to amend and to reconsider what was just amended. In total, it took two new motions to amend and one to reconsider a previous amendment to bring the original motion to a vote.
Who would have thought innocent pagodas could pull such a punch?

It all began when Amanda Seward stood up to make a public comment. Amanda Seward is a well- known attorney who helped the Lincoln Place tenants successfully fight Aimco. She is also an avid lover of modern architect.
She began by saying that she was the person who had contacted Melissa that day about the historical nature of the pagodas. This statement directly contradicted one made earlier by Shelly Gomez, a member of the OFW Committee. After first calling the pagodas ugly, Shelly stated that she had checked with the historic society and found out they were not historic. Gomez finished her comment by saying that color and sound are vibration. “So, those pagodas, if they are colorful, it’s going to raise the vibration of that place. It will deter people from camping out.”
Amanda said the pagodas were designed by Gregory Ain, a very import ant, modern architect, particularly in the Los Angeles area. “They are not designated,” Seward continued,”but there are a lot of things in LA that are historic that are not yet designated.” In Ain’s case, however, there are other buildings he designed that are designated. One example Seward brought up is the Mar Vista Tract, consisting of 52 parcels designed by Ain. According to the Office of Historic Resources’ website, these one-story, single family homes built in 1948, were “shaped by the Fair Housing Administration’s desire to promote home ownership among modest-income families.” The Mar Vista Tract was also the city’s first post World War II Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.

As to the current color of the pagodas, according to Seward, this was carefully considered by the architect. “All I’m saying is that before you paint the pagodas, you need to look at that a little more carefully … that should be considered in the design aspect and I don’t think it was, because no one knew.”
The Venice Heritage Museum’s (VHM) website also has a brief history of the pagodas. According to them, the original ones were hand-tooled and elegant, with benches to sit under. They were believed to have been created as part of the Work Projects Administration Program that existed from 1935-1943. The older, Jewish population who frequented Ocean Front Walk in the days of yore really enjoyed them. In 2000, they were refurbished, with the benches being removed, but the overall pagoda structure maintained.
Melissa Diner, who had made the original motion, was agreeable to Seward’s suggestions. And so, a first amendment was formed that stated the project follow the guidelines of the secretary of interior design on rehabilitation of historic buildings. This amendment passed readily 15-0-3.
But the pagodas were only just getting started! Or maybe it was the revenge of the pigeons and other seafaring birds, discouraged from landing on the pagodas by reflectors added in 2014.
The next motion to amend was made by Community Officer Mike Bravo. He suggested that rather than have one, permanent memorial pagoda to Alicia Gruppioni, that one pagoda be a revolving memorial pagoda that would include other Venice residents. This second amendment carried as well with a vote of 8-4-5.
Death often comes in threes. Evidently, VNC amendments do, too.
The third, and final motion, however, to amend was the most confusing and controversial motion. Vice President Mark Salzberg asked if the board members could remove Bravo’s amendment, on the grounds that Board members did not get a chance to talk about whether there should be any dedication at all. According to the parliamentary, a motion could be made by someone on the prevailing side to reconsider the amendment only.
At this point, the public was roused somewhat; but President Mike Newhouse, aka the Dictator of Time, even more so. He wrongly chastised two women in the back for speaking when they were not. Then, he went on to threaten to adjourn the whole meeting, saying, “Folks are not up here to waste their time.” Newhouse next said there was a lot of time wasting coming from both sides. Considering that public comment was still only one minute, and that there was very little that night, one wonders just how the public was wasting the Board’s time. Telepathically?
To succeed, this third motion to reconsider a previous amendment needed a 2/3rds vote. It failed, 11-5-2, by one vote.
Finally, the entire motion to “Adopt-A-Pagoda” along with two amendments – one to follow guidelines on historical, restoration and the other to create a single, revolving, memorial pagoda – won easily by 14-2-2.
At first thought, one wonders why the idea of beautifying the pagodas on Ocean Front Walk created such heated discussion. They are, however, a perfect mirror of the battle going on here in Venice, a battle that skirts around the real issues of homelessness troubling our community.
In her public comment, Shelly Gomez spoke about how Salt Lake City, Utah is solving their homelessness by housing them. Later, however, she contradicted herself, saying that by painting the pagodas a bright color, it would deter people from camping there. Since she is part of the OFW committee who came up with the beautification project, what then is the real reason for wanting to paint the pagodas? To repel those deemed unfit for Ocean Front Walk?
In a strange twist of irony, the architect who designed these structures, Gregory Ain, was “best known for bringing elements of modern architect to lower-and-medium cost housing.”(wikipedia)
Whatever the intention of the OFW committee, if it was not for the presence and the persuasion of Amanda Seward, we in Venice would have lost the chance to understand and preserve a part of Venice that is both interesting and educational. As Amanda said in her first comment, “When you have great art, you don’t paint over it.”New pagodas

pagoda people


The “Cleaning Up” of Venice

November 1, 2014

By Deborah Lashever

If we wish to honestly “clean up” Venice we need an expanded storage program, an adequate number of trash cans and 24/7 bathrooms. The current city program of criminalizing unhoused people does not solve anything and wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Cleaning up” cannot and should not equal criminalization. That is discrimination, and is illegal. The act of being without housing is not a crime.

If citizens are bothered by piles of belongings, trash or refuse, the solution is to demand adequate Venice storage facilities, trash cans and 24/7 bathrooms when and where they are needed. That would actually solve these problems. The clean-up “sweeps” on OFW will not fix them. Neither will police. These are basic human concerns and they have obvious, basic solutions. Criminalization of situations people cannot help – like urination in alleys when there are no bathrooms, or having stuff on the sidewalk when there is no storage – can never solve these problems.

The Council office admits that each clean-up “sweep” on Ocean Front Walk costs a minimum of $7500. One a month comes to $90,000 a year. In September the city conducted essentially four. That’s $30,000 for just one month. If this trend continues the city will spend $360,000 per year on something that must be repeated ad infinitum. This program obviously does not work and, in addition, too easily violates people’s civil rights so the city, rightfully, keeps getting sued, wasting more hundreds of thousands of dollars that could obviously be better spent.

Councilman Mike Bonin is the only person every official is looking at to resolve the issues in Venice. He needs input from compassionate Venetians and support for real solutions – not to criminalize people who are down on their luck – but to spend our resources on getting them the help they need to get their issues addressed so they can get off the street.

If we had an expanded storage program and adequate public hygiene, like they do in other communities, like Costa Mesa, Bonin could accomplish his goal of “cleaning up Venice” without being punitive or harassing vulnerable people. He could actually help them. He could help all of us! It would cost the city far less and be a huge win/win for Venice.

Costa Mesa has a low cost program that includes adequate full time storage, bathrooms, trash cans, and once a week mobile showers/washing machines for unhoused people. Workers and volunteers interface with unhoused clients daily, building trust and connecting them with services. They have had wonderful success. Residents, businesses, law enforcement and civic leaders are extremely pleased. The community has been transformed! Unhoused people are clean with clean clothes and only a day pack, just like any other community member. They are free to access services to help procure employment, housing, counseling and health services. And they do.

People regain their dignity. The entire community benefits. And it costs pennies compared to what we are now spending on punitive and barbaric measures that help no one and must be repeated forever.

Why not try? Bonin has been made aware of this inclusive program but has not seen fit to implement one yet. He needs to feel public support because he evidently does not believe that Venice is still a community of Heart – not only money – and that Venetians will overwhelmingly support compassionate solutions. Tell him.

The bottom line is that unhoused people in Venice are not being assisted, but instead are being summarily discriminated against, marginalized, maligned, and penalized for things they cannot help. They have no bathrooms much of the night yet get harassed for ‘going’ in alleys or yards. They aren’t allowed adequate storage but are subject to having their only belongings confiscated and thrown out by the city. They have no dwellings so must sleep outside, where they are constantly harassed by irate citizens and police, and ticketed/arrested, with the city ever seeking to put in more laws against them. The city can insist that people get off the sidewalks all they want. The problem is they have nowhere else to go.

The money is available to help at least with basic needs until we can figure out housing. Bonin has been given $500,000 specifically for homeless issues in Venice. That is over and above the $5,000,000 Los Angeles has been given through the Operation Healthy Streets program. If we are to have actual solutions, Bonin needs to understand that Venetians will politically support him only if he implements positive, win/win solutions for everyone in Venice and stops the criminalization process..

Please watch this short video on the Free Storage Venice program. Besides housing, of course, this program is a healthy chunk of what we need to start really solving the immediate issues in our community:  http://vimeo.com/100468839

Fighting OFW sweeps

 

Above: Fighting Ocean Front Walk Sweeps
venicesweep2Above: One of the many $7,500 useless Ocean Front Walk sweeps


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